In case you haven’t heard, the digital camera market is exploding. At this point,
a staggering 98 percent of cameras sold are digital cameras. It’s taken a few
decades—the underlying technology used in most digital cameras was invented
in 1969—but film photography has been reduced to a niche activity.
And why not? The appeal of digital photography is huge. When you shoot digitally,
you don’t pay a cent for film or photo processing. You get instant results, viewing
your photos just moments after shooting them, making even Polaroids seem
painfully slow by comparison. As a digital photographer, you can even be your own
darkroom technician—without the darkroom. You can retouch and enhance photos,
make enlargements, and print out greeting cards using your home computer. Sharing
your pictures with others is far easier, too, since you can burn them to CD or
DVD, email them to friends, or post them on the Web. As one fan puts it, “There are
no ‘negatives’ in digital photography.”
But there is one problem. When most people try to do all this cool stuff, they find
themselves drowning in a sea of technical details: JPEG compression, EXIF tags, file
format compatibility, image resolutions, FTP clients, and so on. It isn’t pretty.
The cold reality is that while digital photography is full of promise, it’s also been full of headaches. During the early years of digital cameras, just making the camera-tocomputer
connection was a nightmare. You had to mess with serial or USB cables;
install device drivers; and use proprietary software to transfer, open, and convert
camera images into a standard file format. If you handled all these tasks perfectly—
and sacrificed a young male goat during the spring equinox—you ended up with
good digital pictures.